Sunny Late Spring Day

The sunny May continued, with marine stratus burning off before mid-morning. I got a slow start, but walked downtown and made a stop by the lake on the way back. As I was leaving the lake (I saw my first ducklings of the year, though Connor had reported seeing some last week, if I remember correctly), I got a call from Connor that the Franklin’s Gull and a Caspian Tern were at Totem Park. I stopped at home for a few minutes to talk to Rowan. She ended up coming with me to the park.

Temperatures this afternoon were reasonably warm, in the upper 50s and reaching 60 by around 5pm. There was a bit of wind out of the west, but less strong than recent days. Snow is rapidly disappearing off the mountains, and I could see just the last little bits of snow on the pyramids today. I expect that will be gone within the next couple of days.

Walking out towards the end of the park, I noticed a dozen Brant along the shoreline. When I talked to Connor he let me know that he had also seen a Red Knot out on the flats (these are not seen on the road system every year). He then left with Rowan (who was headed to the bookstore) and I stayed to see what I could see.

With the warm sun and the slowly rising tide, I decided to just wait and let the birds come closer to me. While I was there, a flock of starlings moved through the area, flying out to the beach to forage, then back up to the forest. Among their calls I noticed a good rendition of the bottle rocket noise makers from the airport, and a shorebird call (maybe a Greater Yellowlegs). I heard from someone later that there’s at least one that imitates Tree Swallows. In the end, I think I fell asleep for a while, but during the time I was relaxing there the Caspian Tern returned (it had been absent when Rowan and I arrived), the Franklin’s Gull was flying around or out on the water for most of the time but eventually returned to shore. As well there were three Whimbrels, two Marbled Godwits, Short-billed Dowitchers and at least one Long-billed Dowitcher, several Bonaparte’s Gulls, and a Black-legged Kittiwake to round out the less common species. I spent a little time walking slowly back and forth seeing what pictures I might be able to get, before moving on.

Having not found the Red Knot, I wondered if it had moved around to the beach in front of the Visitor Center. On my way there I received a message that the Red Knot was at the park with some Dunlin and Western Sandpipers, so I figured that’s where it must be (as I had been out at the end of the park, and seen none of those). The reported birds (as well as three Semipalmated Plovers) were working on the seaweed line pushed up by one of the higher tides earlier in the week. They were a little skittish and flew off pretty quickly after I stepped out on the beach. They didn’t fly down too far, so I walked along and found a place to sit and watch.

I stayed in that spot for an hour or more, moving very little. I had chosen a location near to a pile of seaweed they seemed fond of, as despite being scared off multiple times (by various things), they kept returning to it. More than once while I was sitting there one or more birds approached me very close. Twice one Dunlin came with in reach of me, but most of them stayed a little further off. I’m not sure what they thought of me, but they seemed to think I was mostly okay as long as I was laying there relaxed and still. Even the Red Knot eventually passed within a few feet of me following many of the Dunlin who had run down the beach towards a seaweed pile closer to the Visitor Center.

This evening we had another fire. Unlike yesterday, the wind was not as strong and started dying down a little before sunset. I stayed with the fire until it had burned down (around 11pm). No mystery calls this evening, but I was interested to see a Tree Swallow on the utility line over Park Street well after sunset. It was there so long that I thought it was preparing to spend the night. I went and got my camera to take a picture of it with the crescent moon as a backdrop, but as I was setting up it flew off towards the trees on the southeast side of my house. This was around 10pm. Maybe 20 or 30 minutes later a bird that could have been the same one came flying back from that direction, circled around the yard a couple of times and then disappeared behind the neighbor’s to the west.

1 thought on “Sunny Late Spring Day”

  1. Matt, I sure enjoy your stories and family adventures. I’m new to birding, and have been out a bit around Sitka. Your posts really help to identify what I’m seeing. I found your blog last week, and then the next sunrise saw you walking the beach at Totem Park. I was tracking a flight with my camera and you were kind enough to avoid walking into the shot….at least I’m pretty sure it was you. Keep up the good works.

    J H S

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